Saturday, 22 December 2012

Cranberry and Walnut Divinity

Candies so good, they're Devine :)  Another seasonal favorite in the Okanay household.  But be warned, these little candies are sweet! You can make them without the nuts or try different fillings if you like.  I personally like the combination of walnuts and cranberries the best as I think it compliments the candy and also helps to cut the sweetness.


600g granulated sugar
5 fl oz light golden syrup or light corn syrup
4 fl oz water
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla
50g chopped walnuts
25g dried cranberries

Cook sugar, golden syrup and water in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved.  Continue cooking without stirring to 130 degrees C on a candy thermometer or until a small amount of the mixture dropped into very cold water forms a hard ball that holds its shape but is pliable. As a guide mine generally takes about 12 -15 minutes to reach this stage.

Meanwhile in the bowl of an electric mixer beat the egg whites until stiff peaks from.  Continue beating while pouring the hot syrup into the egg whites in a thin stream.  Add vanilla.  Beat until the mixture  holds its shape and becomes slightly dull, about 10 minutes.  Fold in the Walnuts and Cranberries.

Drop the mixture from a spoon onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Let stand until firm, turning the candies occasionally, about 12 hours.  Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Spiced Hot Chocolate on a Stick

I was looking for some Christmas gift ideas when I came across this post from Sprinkle Bakes.  She really does have some lovely recipes and I thought these little Hot Chocolates on a stick would be perfect for my daughter to give her teachers.  I've rewritten the recipe in grams instead of cups to make it a bit easier to follow.  I also have changed the recipe to use a bit more chocolate as when I followed the Sprinkle Bakes recipe it seemed much to thick and dry.  Adding that bit of extra chocolate made mine smoother and easier to spoon into the cups.

What you will need:

10 small paper or plastic cups
10 wooden spoon or lollipop sticks
300 grams good quality milk chocolate
25 grams cocoa powder
80 grams icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon plus more for decoration
cinnamon sticks and/or whole star anise

In a bowl mix together the cocoa powder, icing sugar, cloves, ginger and cinnamon and set aside.

Place chocolate in a heat proof bowl and set bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Stir chocolate until melted.  Once melted remove from heat.  Stir in the spice mixture.  Stir until smooth.  Mixture will be very thick.

Divide mixture equally amongst 10 small paper or plastic cups.  Tap the cup on the counter to release any air bubbles and smooth the mixture.  Stand a wooden spoon or lollipop stick in the mixture.  Garnish with a cinnamon stick or whole star anise and an extra sprinkle of cinnamon.

Place in the refrigerator until the chocolate is set.  Then cut the cup and peel away.
I sprinkled mine with a dash of edible gold lustre and wrapped with some marshmallows in cling film.  If your giving as a gift don't forget to add a note to dissolve in 200ml hot milk.


Of course I had to try it out before I gave them away.  Absolutely delicious :)  




Friday, 14 December 2012

Peppermint Hearts

I'm glad to see Candy Canes are catching on here in England.  A few years back they where hard to find.  This year I spotted them on the Christmas aisle in Sainsburys and grabbed a few boxes.  I've got a couple of peppermint recipes brewing in my brain for this year.  This first one is a very quick and easy but delicious treat.  Hearts made of White Chocolate and Peppermint.

To make these you'll need for each heart:

2 peppermint candy canes
1 oz of fine quality white chocolate
and some parchment paper

Unwrap your 2 candy canes and break off a bit at the end to shorten them so that they will form a nice heart shape.

 Arrange your candy canes onto the parchment paper into a heart shape.
 Take the bits you broke off and place them in a bowl.  Crush them into small pieces with the bottom of a glass.

 Melt 1oz of white chocolate and spoon into the centre of the heart shape.
 Top with the crushed bits of candy.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Christmas Tree Cookies

It's taken me a while to get in the Christmas baking spirit this year.  But it is time and I thought I would start off with a family favorite.  These delicious festive Sugar Cookies have been a tradition in our house for many years now and are a great project to do with the kids.

Cookie Dough

170g / 6oz sugar
170g / 6oz butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
400g / 14oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Coloured Cookie Dough for Decoration

55g / 2oz butter
55g / 2oz icing sugar
170g / 6oz plain flour
6 tblspoons milk
green, red and yellow food colouring


In a large bowl, combine sugar, butter vanilla and egg; beat until light and fluffy.  Add flour, baking powder and salt; mix until well blended.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

While the Cookie Dough is in the refrigerator, in a small bowl, combine icing sugar and butter and mix well.  Add flour and milk and mix until blended.  Dough will need to be thin enough to be piped with a decorators bag so if it is too thick add a bit more milk.  Seperate dough and colour 1/2 of the dough green, 1/4 of the dough red and 1/4 of the dough yellow.  Spoon coloured dough into decorators bags fitted with a round piping nozzle.  I've used tip number 3 for mine.  If you don't have decorators bags you can use a resealable sandwhich bag and just snip a small hole in the tip to pipe the dough.

Heat oven to 175C /350F / Gas Mark 4

Roll dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8" thick.  Cut with Tree Cookie Cutters.  Decorate with Coloured Cookie Dough.  Bake until Cookies start to turn lightly Golden.  I was using a large cookie cutter and this took about 10 - 12 minutes for mine.  For smaller cookies  it may take less time.  I would suggest you start to check them after 7 minutes.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Oreo Cupcakes

I've found a new love.  I actually can't believe with a sweettooth like mine I had never tried it before. 
But with the invention of the Smore's Cupcake I had tested Marshmallow Fluff instead of using icing and well now I find
it in my cupboard again just waiting to be used.  I thought this time I would try out my Smores cake made with a different cookie crumb. 
Oreo's :)  

Oreo Cupcakes


115g (1 1/2 cups) Oreo Cookies crushed into a fine crumb
57g (3/4 cups) all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
125g (1 /2 cup) butter
200g (3/4 cup) sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
175 ml (3/4 cup) whole milk

Top with Icing of your choice.  I've used Marshmallow Fluff and an Oreo Cookie.  They would taste lovely with Buttercream icing as well.


Preheat Oven to 175C / 350F / Gas Mark 4

In a bowl, whisk together oreo crumbs, flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter and sugar and beat on high speed until very light and fluffy.  The mixture should look almost like whipped cream.  I have a stand mixer and this takes approx 5 minutes with my mixer.

In a cup, combine the eggs and vanilla and whisk together.  Reduce the speed to low and add the egg mixture slowly just a bit at a time.

By hand, stir in flour and milk.  Start with 1/3 of the flour, then 1/2 milk, then 1/3 flour, etc.  Stiring each time just until combined.  You want to keep the mixture light and airy.

Spoon into your baking cases and bake for 20 minutes.

Cool completely before decorating. 


Monday, 12 November 2012

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday to Me!

Yes, I'm another year older and to celebrate my Family gave me this......

And I thought I couldn't have loved my Kitchen Aid more, turns out I was wrong.  I couldn't wait to try it out so I promptly whipped up a batch of Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream.  Now I'm an Ice Cream novice so I didn't have a recipe of my own.  I used this Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe from David Lebovitz.  What can I say, it was perfect and I wouldn't change a thing about it.  Thumbs up from the rest of the Okanay team as well.

To make the Ice Cream I had purchased some Vanilla Beans and had one left over as well as the used bean from my ice cream.  So I've decided to make my own Vanilla Extract.  Considering how simple it is to make along with the fact that many of the "vanilla extract" products out there contain little to no actual vanilla beans and can contain a host of other unnecessary ingredients, I thought it would be a nice thing to have around the house.  And whats more, once the solution is ready all you have to do is top it up with more vanilla beans and alcohol and you'll have a never ending supply.

If you fancy having a go at making your own vanilla extract here are the steps I followed.  I'll post some updated pics of mine as it matures (it takes about 2 months before it's ready).

You'll need:

1or 2 Vanilla Beans to every 236 ml (1 cup) of alchol
A clean jar to keep it in

You can use any alchol, but vodka is the one most commonly used.  Brandy is another popular choice. I've used Vodka for mine.

To start off you'll need to sterilise your container and lid in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes.  

Once boiled (and cool enough to handle) you can fill your container with alcohol.  I've used an old jam jar and added 236 ml Vodka to my jar.  

Next split the bean to expose the seed inside and place the bean in the jar.  

Tighten the lid on the jar and give it a good shake.

Place in a dark cool cupboard.  Take out once a week and give it a shake.  It should be ready to use in 2 months time.   Again, I'll post photos as mine matures as well as the finished product when it's ready in January :)  

Friday, 9 November 2012

Smores Cupcakes

It's a Graham Cracker cupcake, topped with marshmallow fluff and drizzled in milk chocolate.  What "Smore" do you need to know?  Oh, except how to make one yourself.  Here you go....


115g (1 1/2 cups) graham cracker crumbs
57g (3/4 cups) all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
125g (1 /2 cup) butter
200g (3/4 cup) sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
175 ml (3/4 cup) whole milk

For the topping:
1 jar of Marshmallow Fluff
Milk Chocolate


Preheat Oven to 175C / 350F / Gas Mark 4

In a bowl, whisk together graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter and sugar and beat on high speed until very light and fluffy.  The mixture should look almost like whipped cream.  I have a stand mixer and this takes approx 5 minutes with my mixer.

In a cup, combine the eggs and vanilla and whisk together.  Reduce the speed to low and add the egg mixture slowly just a bit at a time.

By hand, stir in flour and milk.  Start with 1/3 of the flour, then 1/2 milk, then 1/3 flour, etc.  Stiring each time just until combined.  You want to keep the mixture light and airy.

Spoon into your baking cases and bake for 20 minutes.

Cool completely then top with Marshmallow Fluff and Melted Milk Chocolate to serve.

Homemade "Honey Grahams" Graham Crackers

For those of you who may be unfamilar, below is a picture of a traditional Graham Cracker.  Don't let the word "cracker" fool you.  They are sweet and taste more similar to a biscuit, but have the crisp texture of a cracker.  I've heard lots of people compare them to Digestive Biscuits when it comes to baking.  Personally I think the only thing they have in common with a Digestive Biscuit is they are both commonly crushed up and used as a pie crust.  Graham Crackers have their own distinct and lovely flavour which is nothing like a Digestive.

This week I was given the task to produce some bakes for the my daughters School bakesale.  An obvious opportunity to try something different.  I decided to make some Smores Cupcakes.  More about that on another post, but in order to make them I first had to have some Graham Crackers.  Graham Crackers are not commonly sold in the UK unless you go to a specialist store that sells USA Grocery items, like Selfridges or the Stateside Candy Company.  

Rather than order them I decided to make them.  They came out so nice that I reserved a few (rather than crush them all up) to give to the bake sell in their own right.  

Fancy making your own homemade Honey Gram Graham Crackers?  Here's how.......

340g (1 1/2 cups) all purpose flour
315g (1 1/3 cups) whole meal flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
250g (1 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
157g (2/3 cup) dark brown sugar
5 tablespoons honey
water (approx 5 tablespoons) 


1. In a bowl, whisk together all purpose flour, whole meal flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and salt and set aside.

2.  In a bowl, combine butter, brown sugar and honey and beat until very light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the flour mixture and mix on low just until blended and mixture comes together.  Mixture should not be dry, it should come together into a ball of dough.  If needed add water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture is no longer dry and comes together.  Mine took approx 5 tablespoons of water, you may need more or less.  

3.  Cover dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 5 days.

4.  To bake.  Preheat oven to 175C /350F /Gas Mark 4.  Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to very thin, about 1/8 inch.  Traditionally these would be cut into rectangles or squares like the photo above, but I used a cookie cutter to cut mine.  Use your imagination, their your crackers :)   

5.  Bake for 8 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake approx 4 more minutes.  Keep an eye on them and take them out when they are golden and firm to the touch.  Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely before serving.  Can be stored in an airtight container for 5 days.


Tuesday, 6 November 2012


In Turkish they say Lokma 

in English I say Sticky Syrupy Yummy Doughnuts

My step-daughter first introduced me to Lokma.  They are a popular Turkish dessert.  Similar to doughnuts.  Perfect little fried doughballs soaked in syrup. If you need any further convincing that you should try these then we have nothing in common.  LOL.  Mmmmmmmm.

I tried 3 recipes before I got this right but once I did get the mixture right they where very easy to make.  Now mine are not perfect little round balls like you find in the patisserie.  I'll have to figure out how they do that and get back to you.  They are homemade and look it.  But the taste is spot on.


250g plain flour
6g dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt  
275 ml very warm water
oil for frying

For the Syrup
640g granulated sugar
300 ml water
juice of half a lemon


Add the dry ingredients to a mixing bowl.  Sift together.  Make a well in the middle and add the warm water.  Whisk by hand until the mixture is smooth.  It should be a runny consistency.  Cover with a clean towel and leave in a warm place for 1 hour or until the mixture has doubled in size.

While you are waiting for the dough to rise make the syrup.  Heat sugar and water in a saucepan just until boiling.  As soon as it starts to boil reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat and add lemon juice.  Leave to cool.

Once your dough is ready (it will still look watery but will be risen and airy in consistency).  Heat some oil in a frying pan, not too much, it does not need to cover the lokmas, I used about 1 1/4 cups of oil in my pan.

The dough will be a little bit stick so you may find it helpful to grease your spoon first to help prevent sticking.  I also read somewhere to dip the spoon in water each time to help prevent sticking which does work but be careful as any water going into the pan will cause it the grease to pop at you.

I tried first to use a teaspoon but felt the doughballs where a bit too small, so I switched to a tablespoon and this is what I stayed with but felt they where a bit too large.  So what I would suggest and what I will do next time is still use the tablespoon but scoop up a bit less dough.   I know this is just me being overy analytical because I know what size the ones in the patisserie are, it probably doesn't really matter, they all taste the same.  So really you could just ignore me and do whatever you like :)

Moving on, drop spoonfulls of dough into the hot oil and fry turning as they cook until golden brown (about 1 minute).  They should puff up as they cook.  Remove onto a plate lined with a paper towel.

Once all cooked place doughballs into the cooled syrup and allow them to soak in the syrup for 5 to 10 minutes.  Transfer to serving dish and enjoy!

Happy Bonfire Night!

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

(and you don't need an Ice Cream Machine to make it!)

Back in August I was in the market for an Ice Cream maker.  You don't see Peach Ice Cream in the shops here in London, well at least I haven't.  And it was always a favorite of mine growing up so I got the idea to make some Homemade Peach Ice Cream.  I got side tracked with plans for my Daughter's Birthday party and never bought the machine or made the Ice Cream.  Then last week Mary Berry did a special on homemade ice cream in her Great British Food Revival series and I discovered that you don't need an Ice Cream Maker to make Ice Cream.  Something I never thought about.  So I decided to give it a go now.

I do love Peach Ice Cream, but it's October and would seem a shame not to do something more true to the season so I've made Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream instead.  And it was a hit with everyone in my family.  I hope you enjoy it too :)


113g (4oz) Fresh pumpkin puree or canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 tsp. vanilla extract
170g (6 oz) heavy cream + 57g (2oz) heavy cream
57g (2oz) firmly packed dark brown sugar
28g (1oz) caster sugar
5 egg yolks
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tbsp.whisky


I made my pumpkin puree, but I've used the tin pumpkin for other recipes and it is just as good. You can find tin pumpkin online and I have also seen it in store in Waitrose.

If you are making your own pumpkin puree make sure you choose an edible pumpkin.Preheat oven to 200C / 400F/ Gas Mark 6. I used one medium pumpkin removed the stem and cut into quarters lengthwise. Bake cut side down, in a shallow dish with a little water in the bottom for 1 hour. Let cool, scrape out the seeds, cut the flesh from the peels, and force it through a mesh sieve.

In a bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 8 hours.

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, combine 170g of the cream and 57g brown sugar. Cook until bubbles form around the edges of the pan, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the egg yolks, caster sugar,cinnamon, ginger, salt, nutmeg and 57g heavy cream. Whisk until smooth and the sugar begins to dissolve.

Pour the egg mixture into the pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and keeping the custard at a low simmer, until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, 4 to 6 minutes. Do not allow the custard to boil. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.

Place the bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice water, stirring occasionally until cool.

Whisk the pumpkin mixture into the custard. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours.

From here if you have an Ice Cream Maker you can transfer your mixture to the maker and follow the instructions. Add the whisky in the last minute of churning. Transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze at least 3 hours before serving.

If, like me, you don't have an ice cream maker. Put your mixture in a freezer safe container and freeze for 30 minutes. Remove from the freezer after 30 minutes and with an electric beater beat the mixture until smooth making sure to break up any ice crystals that may have forned. Repeat every 30 minutes for 3 hours. Then allow the mixture to freeze until firm before serving, approx 3 additional hours.


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Moorishly Delicious Gingerbread Cake

As you may have noticed I made some Gingerbread Cookies for the first time last week.  I had some ingredients left over and thought it would be nice to find a Gingerbread Cake recipe to use them.  I came across this recipe from The English Kitchen.  She claimed it was the "Worlds Best Gingerbread Cake" so it is the one I decided to try.  I had to change a few ingredients as I did not have them to hand but have to say it came out simply DELICIOUS!  Seroiusly, give it a go, you won't be disappointed.

Gingerbread Cake
170g / 6 oz Golden syrup
3/4 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
295g / 10 oz boiling water 
1.5 tsp ground ginger
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
240g / 8.5oz plain flour 
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

6 TBS butter, softened
158g / 5.6 ounces dark Muscovado sugar 
1 large free range egg at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Butter and flour a 9 inch square baking tin. Set aside.

Add the syrup  and bicarbonate of soda to the boiling water. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.

Whisk together the flour, spices, baking powder and salt. Set aside. 

Cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat the egg with a fork, and then beat it into the creamed mixture a little bit at a time. 

On low speed add the cooled syrup mixture to the creamed mixture. Stir in the dry ingredients only to blend. The mixture will look runny/watery.

Pour into the prepared baking tin.  

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until well risen and the top springs back when lightly touched, or a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Serve with Spiced Lemon Sauce

100g / 3.5 ounces caster sugar 
1 TBS cornflour (cornstarch)
pinch salt
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
250ml of boiling water 
1 TBS butter
1 tsp finely grated fresh lemon zest
the juice of one lemon

Whisk the sugar, nutmeg, salt and cornflour together in a saucepan. Slowly whisk in the boiling water. Cook until thickened, whisking constantly. Whisk in the butter, lemon zest and lemon juice. Remove from the burner and keep warm. Serve spooned over squares of the gingerbread.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Halloween Gingerbread Lantern

Following on from watching the great British Bake off a few weeks ago where they where making amazing Gingerbread structures, I decided to have a go at my own.  I wish I could say it was as easy as it looked, but at least I've learned something new and had fun doing it.  

I put together a template of scary sillouhettes to make up a Gingerbread Lantern. You can find the recipe and templates at the bottom of this post.    

I cut out each template using a PME Craft Knife and baked until golden.  Some of the detail in these templates is fine and hard to cut out.  I should have gone back over it once the gingerbread was cooked but still hot out of the oven and could have made the details sharper.  But I left it too long and the gingerbread was to hard to cut once cooled.

 My lantern is glued together with Royal Icing tinted Orange and Black and I used edible rice paper to line my lantern and give a more realistic look when lit. 

Maybe it's not a show stopper but I was pleased and think it would make a very nice centre piece for a Halloween Party.  


  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 200g dark muscovado sugar
  • 7 tbsp golden syrup
  • 600g plain flour
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

  1. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan. Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger and cinnamon into a large bowl, then stir in the butter mixture to make a stiff dough. If it won't quite come together, add a tiny splash of water.
  2. On a piece of greaseproof/baking paper roll out dough to about the thickness of 2 £1 coins.  Cut out the shapes and transfer still on the greaseproof/baking paper to a cookie sheet.   Bake for approx 10-12 minutes.